Elsa – Erazor X2 review

AGP nVidia GeForce 2D/3D card
Photo of Elsa – Erazor X2
£259.99

The chances are you’ll already have heard about the nVidia GeForce 256 chipset used in the Erazor X2 and other cards. Some impressive claims have been made for this chipset, which was designed to take much of the hard work of 3D rendering away from the PC’s processor. The theory is that the PC’s CPU looks after gameplay and geometry, while the graphics card handles everything else.

With a 2.6GB/sec memory bandwidth, this AGP card from Elsa has four separate graphics processors and more than twice as many transistors as a Pentium III. There’s 32MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) memory onboard, replacing the SDRAM used by some early card vendors for the nVidia chip, and this means that the Elsa card delivers better performance than those ‘version 1.0′ cards.

The nVidia chipset is branded a GPU – graphics processing unit – and takes far more of the graphics processing responsibility away from the CPU. This is especially the case with the new Transform and Lighting (T&L) features in DirectX7, which the nVidia chip exploits to the full. Transformation – the process of converting 3D images to a 2D screen picture – and lighting were previously the responsibility of the CPU; if this trend continues, soon the PC’s processor should be able to concentrate on gameplay and AI only.

As with most of nVidia’s chipsets, the drivers supplied with this card allow the user to tweak between performance and image quality. This can make a big difference to performance, which is shown off by some impressive graphics demos included with the card, and some others demonstrated at the launch of the chip late last year. Top whack is an impressive 2048 x 1536 with 16.7m colours, and refresh rates are above 75Hz for most of the available resolutions.

Company: Elsa

Contact: 08000 563 445


Verdict
Geared to do well with the next generation of DirectX 7 games, the Elsa Erazor X2 performed pretty well with existing DirectX6 games, but the bundled copy of Drakan and other demos included with the card show what it's really capable of, and that has to be seen to be believed. Ultra smooth scenes, fast frame rates and perfect lighting are the norm. Squint and you're watching real life (or Terminator II/Jurassic Park). This really is a next-generation card, which is reflected - with pixel perfection - in the price.